A message from Newsroom’s co-editor Mark Jennings
Mark Jennings writes on some of the good things to have come out of lockdown - and the tough times that lie ahead.
We are well into our second week of lockdown and, for me, our old world already feels strangely remote.
I’ve learned that working from home is fine, although it is easy for all of us to work longer hours– a tendency that may need tempering.
I’m grateful the Government spent a pile of our cash on ultrafast broadband and that technology has made video conferencing easy, and even fun on a Friday night when the Newsroom team gathers, via laptop cameras, for drinks.
But, the stand out for me is the rapid emergence of community spirit and generosity that we know lies in the hearts of most Kiwis.
I see it at the supermarket where people are shopping, not just for themselves, but for those who are at higher risk if they leave their homes.
I see it on my daily walk up Mt Eden. Everyone, and it does seem to be everyone, acknowledging each other with a smiling “good morning” or “afternoon”. Writer Niki Bezzant made the comment recently on RNZ’s The Panel that she lived alone and these were currently her only “in-person” interactions. She wasn’t needy but it was important to her mental well-being.
I see it also in the way Newsroom’s readers have responded to the current crisis. To those of you who've been supporting us for days, weeks, months or years - thank you, we are truly humbled by your generosity. If you would like to become a supporter you can do so here.
Financial support from the public has always been an important part of our revenue but now it is a vital lifeline for us.
Last month we saw a spike in the number of donations we normally receive. In the last few days we have seen an even bigger surge. No doubt, the sudden closure of Bauer Media’s New Zealand operation, which published The Listener, North & South, Woman’s Day and other well-known magazines, drove it home to everyone how fragile the state of our news media is. Foreign owners have low tolerance for losses.
While donations from readers are not at the point where they can replace our commercial revenue, the upward trend does make us hopeful that we can negotiate our way through the difficult time ahead.
More recently, the money has helped us purchase the infographic software you may have seen used in the detailed charts reporter Farah Hancock produces daily to keep readers up to date on the latest Covid-19 cases in New Zealand. Personally, I find the graph showing how much ICU capacity we still have, gives me a sense of calm every time I look at it.
Newsroom is also grateful for the help of our corporate partners who have continued to support us despite their own revenues taking a hit.
It is not just financial support. For example, Kiwibank’s chief economist Jarrod Kerr takes an hour out of his busy day to discuss the economic impact Covid-19 is having and how New Zealand and other nations are responding. The Zoom session with Newsroom Pro editor Bernard Hickey, and guests, is becoming a must-watch for people wanting expert economic analysis.
Our partnerships with the University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Otago have given us access to leading academics in the fields of public health, epidemiology, clinical psychology, economics and media and communications. We've been working with Dr Ayesha Verrall, an infectious diseases expert from Otago University to answer your questions on Covid-19 twice a week.
Like all other news providers, Newsroom’s coverage is almost entirely devoted to the current crisis. Our reporters and editors are working six or seven days a week and it is tiring but we are no different to thousands of New Zealanders whose jobs currently demand extra hours.The big increase in our readership is both motivating and sustaining. While events are fast moving, and there is no blueprint for covering a global disaster like this, we are still trying to stick to our guiding principles of in-depth, accurate, balanced coverage and reporting on areas that other media no longer have the resources to do.
We appreciate that NZ on Air has allowed us to use a portion of the funding granted for other projects to cover some of these stories. Importantly we have been able to report what is happening in the Pacific Islands – Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and Rarotonga. And, in New Zealand there’s the impact on life outside the big cities. Places like the Chatham Islands, Great Barrier Island, Cromwell and Havelock.
Already, there is a lot of talk on social media about the things people will miss when the lockdown ends – no traffic noise, the cleaner air, more birds in our gardens and not having to do the ironing. Maybe, in a post Covid-19 world we will be able to keep some of these things but the reality, that surely escapes no one, is that New Zealand and rest of the world has a long, tough journey ahead.
I keep thinking about a sign I see on the path up to the summit of Mt Eden. Kia Haumaru Te Haere – Share with Care. It is, of course, advice to walkers and cyclists sharing the same path. Maybe, in a wider context though, it sums up how Kiwis have chosen to fight the greatest battle of our time.
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